online reviews for restaurants
by Andreea Dobrila

What is the best website for restaurant reviews? Nowadays, thanks to sites such as TripAdvisor, Yelp, Top Table and Google Reviews, diners get their reviews for restaurants voiced far and wide. And this is something that can make or break the success of your business.

Because your restaurant’s success hangs on positive restaurant reviews. Multiple surveys put online reviews as diners’ first go-to outlet for choosing where to go for dinner. And as a restaurant owner, you must get to grips with how review websites can impact your business.

Why are online restaurant reviews so important for diners?

The internet has changed our behavior as it has brought the world to our fingertips. Gone are the days where word of mouth is the sole means of recommending a restaurant. And people increasingly take to their phones to check out reviews for restaurants to find the ones with the highest ratings.

TripAdvisor’s latest survey ‘Influences on Diner Decision Making’ reveals that online restaurant reviews influence a whopping 94% of diners in the US.

A boatload of good reviews also has other positive effects in addition to getting customers through the door. A survey by Small Business Trends pointed out that 31% of respondents would spend more money at a restaurant that had positive reviews. And this is yet another big incentive to get those review ratings up.

Related: The Importance of Online Reviews for Restaurants & How to Get More

The impact of negative reviews for restaurants

Reviews for restaurants are not always positive. And the impact of negative reviews can be huge for restaurant owners. The impact of just one bad review could turn almost 22% of potential customers away from visiting your restaurant, according to Small Business Trends.

Worse still, the impact of bad reviews for restaurants is cumulative. So the consequences of having four or more bad reviews can be catastrophic – preventing as many as three quarters (70%) of customers that consider dining at your restaurant.

But the great part is that YOU can actually get online and take control of the conversation in your favor . According to Profit Well, reviews can help you discover what works, and what doesn’t in your pitch. Basically you should see online reviews as opportunities to grow your business, since they may contain a lot of great ideas.

Equally, having no reviews for your restaurant can have a negative impact on increasing your customer base. Customer reviews are necessary for your business success, since they are a driving force for diners. If your restaurant is not on the online radar, then this will put off potential diners. And that’s because they won’t want to be the first to try out your food.

For starters, try upping your social media presence. And make sure your launch events are well attended to ensure you get those all-important reviews off the ground.

Why restaurant owners need to pay attention to Yelp

If you haven’t heard of Yelp as a restaurant owner, then it is about time that you got to grips with this online review site. Many diners start their search for a restaurant with a quick google of ‘places to eat near me Yelp’. And this helps them discover restaurants in their area.

Each restaurant will have a star rating (out of 5) and a list of reviews which potential customers can peruse through. Reviews include:

  • comments on food quality
  • as well as the atmosphere
  • cleanliness
  • and customer service

Yelp is the 4th biggest customer review site on the web containing 67 million local reviews. Most of the customers in your restaurant will have paid a visit to Yelp before deciding to dine with you, making Yelp one of the most important platforms for potential customers.

And as a restaurant owner, it is essential that you invest time in Yelp as an essential growth exercise for your business. Improving your profile, responding to reviews, using Yelp metrics to check your progress and even advertising on Yelp itself can all be great ways of boosting your restaurant’s appeal.

Fake reviews – don’t be tempted!

As good reviews for restaurants are so important, some businesses have been lured into the fake review market to help boost their customer base. The consequences of fake reviews can be far-reaching and devastating for a restaurant – so don’t be tempted.

Review websites and customers are increasingly getting clued up on identifying fake reviews and TripAdvisor even has a red flag system which highlights where they find a review to be suspicious, and potentially fake. Fake reviews are a huge risk for restaurants.

How to get more online reviews for your restaurant

So, how do you get reviews for your restaurant and, more importantly, how do you achieve that excellent restaurant review? Providing excellent service, delicious food, and an ambient atmosphere is an obvious precursor to customer satisfaction. However, not all satisfied customers will leave reviews for restaurants.

And that is why asking customers to leave a review is fine. But, it is important to get the balance right of not being too pushy. Therefore, try leaving reminders on:

  • business cards
  • invoices or receipts (click here to see how you can do that using our restaurant receipt template)
  • and on posters in your restaurant

These are simple, yet effective ways of prompting customers to leave feedback. Keeping your presence up on social media is also key. It might even help prompt those customers that follow you to leave you a review. And make them return to your restaurant in the future.

One effective way to generate reviews and positive feedback about your restaurants is through social wall displays, as they allow you to collect and flaunt your existing customer opinions easily and live, encouraging others to take part and create content for you.

More tech-savvy restaurants are also now using text, e-mail reminders, and even delivery survey questions to ask customers about their experience. And link them to online review platforms. Now, let’s see how a number of famous restaurant businesses handle customer reviews and what is their financial impact.

What owners say about the importance of customer reviews for restaurants

“Reviews are the backbone of our restaurant concepts”

They [reviews] are literally what drives everything in our restaurant from training to customer interaction to marketing.

When we first opened in 2009, we couldn’t pay people to try South African cuisine and didn’t have much of a budget for marketing. It took some time, but our reviews were the main reason people would give us a try.

Since then, getting 5-star reviews have been our biggest platform for marketing and customer retention. It isn’t the easiest way to market your company because there are so many different platforms for reviews (Yelp, TripAdvisor, Google), but review provide a touch-point for interacting with our guests.

Regarding bad reviews, again its an opportunity to reach out and interact with a guest. We would rather them post a bad review so that we can get data on our staff/food performance, fix their issue and potentially bring them back and change their perception of Peli Peli.

All of our fine dining locations and our fast casual at Campbell are over 4.5 stars and we are rated top 15 in Houston on both Tripadvisor & Yelp after 9 years.

Special thanks to Thomas P. Nguyen, Co-founder at Peli Peli Restaurants


“We hear guests give us comments all the time on how they saw our great reviews and decided to check us out”

Though I can’t put a quantifiable number on how much our customer reviews have helped us gain new business, anecdotally we hear guests give us comments all the time on how they saw our great reviews and decided to check us out.

This can be a double edged sword as people come in with high expectations, luckily 9 times out of 10 we meet that expectation but it can sting when we don’t! We have an internal review system and when people have particularly good feedback we ask if they’ll share it to a review site. Additionally, we respond to every single review we receive, good or bad as it’s important to show guests that you’re not only listening but evolving based on their comments.

The number one rule is to not get emotional and I wholeheartedly believe this is where most restaurant owners go wrong. It is SO HARD not to want to pick up your computer and throw it at the wall or to excessively social media-stalk the person who left the review but ultimately that doesn’t bring a solution to anyone and ends up harming everyone involved.

Taking the emotion out and inserting a willingness to evolve will never hurt you or your restaurant.

Special thanks to Kay Salerno, Vice President at the Squeeze In Franchising

“Responding to positive reviews shows our customers that we are listening and are very grateful for the feedback”

As a winery with an on-site restaurant, reviews are extremely important to us. With 725 wineries in Oregon, there are many choices for wine tasting, and being located less than an hour outside of Portland, there is no shortage of food options either.

Reviews help us differentiate Willamette Valley Vineyards from other wineries in the Willamette Valley. Reviews give potential customers the chance to hear honest opinions from other guests who wrote about their experience on Google, Trip Advisor, Yelp, Facebook or other review sites.

We monitor all of these sites daily and try to respond to all written reviews within 24 hours. And we strive to give each person a unique response to their review — never a canned response. We want to thank guests for taking the time to write a review and share their experience with others. We also want to make sure other visitors see that we are watching the review sites and are listening to feedback.

We rarely see negative reviews, but when it happens, we take immediate action to learn what happened, respond as quickly as possible (usually within 1-2 hours) and offer a solution to rectify the experience.

In some cases, people who have left us a poor review have become some of our most loyal customers because they see the lengths at which we’ll go to in order to make it right.

Responding to positive reviews is just as important as it shows our customers that we are listening and are very grateful for the feedback. We recently had a customer call-in to purchase more wine after writing a review because she was so impressed with the response she received. That is the best compliment that we could have received!

Special thanks to Mandy Morgan, Marketing Manager at the Willamette Valley Vineyards

“You aren’t just replying to the person posting but to everyone who reads your reply after the fact”

Reviews are vital. We get a little input from customers during the day. But we get a tremendous amount of feedback on our different review channels. And in person people tend to hold back, not the case online.

I recommend not putting a junior person on the task of replying to reviews. It needs to either be the owner or a very seasoned and senior team member. We have 50 team members during high season yet I still won’t give up the review replies to anyone else.

Typically we hear about issues we already know about. Occasionally we get a flamer who’s just mad at the world and once in awhile we hear something that is incredibly valuable. And a key thing to keep in mind is you aren’t just replying to the person posting but to everyone who reads your reply after the fact

Special thanks to David Thomason, Owner at the Red Rabbit Cafe and Ice Cream


“Aiming for the 5 star status is crucial and you better not let it dip below 4!”

Customer reviews are becoming very important to business owners, especially in businesses that offer a popular product ore are in a “saturated genre” (think Chinese food, pizza, delis).

As a consumer, you may have a hankering for a type of cuisine, but how do you know which establishment to choose? Especially if you’re in a city like New York or on vacation? Well, many rely on online reviews from Google, Facebook, Yelp, and the like. So what does this mean for a merchant or business owner?

Aiming for the 5 star status is crucial and you better not let it dip below 4! Managing your online reputation is very important! Aim to deliver the best customer experience and your reviews should reflect that! Of course there will always be an outlier; to aid in these situations it is important to manage your reviews, primarily by responding in an intelligent and savvy manner to alleviate the situation.

Gaining customer reviews is a challenge. You don’t want to “beg” for reviews. A good tactic is to ask your friends and family to leave you a review, preferably a positive one, after an experience in your establishment. Another tactic is to run a promotion or giveaway to encourage reviews. Your goal is to not “force” customers to give you positive reviews, but to “encourage” them to just give an honest review.

As mentioned above, if you are delivering a stellar customer experience, the positive reviews should flourish! Another tactic is creating an in-store poster or take-one cards to aid in increasing customer reviews. Something along the lines of, “Did you know we are on Yelp and would appreciate your feedback” may work wonders!

The goal is simple; create tactics to encourage reviews, always deliver 5 star service, and manage those “not so desirable” reviews. Prospective customers will be watching and hopefully walking in your door in no time!

Special thanks to Nick Pace, Owner of Nooks & Kindles Organic


Bottom line

Positive customer reviews are the lifeblood of your business. That is why investing time in improving the positivity of your restaurant’s online presence is an essential tool for growing your business.

Put aside some time to get yourself familiar with Yelp. Take time to read existing reviews and act on feedback. Because realizing the gravity of reviews for restaurants for the success of your business is the most important step in getting diners through the doors.

photo of GloriaFood blog writer Andreea Dobrila
Andreea Dobrila

Andreea Dobrila is a proven web copywriter & marketing strategist. She pushes online restaurants on the fast-track to quickly growing their online sales. Win more business by using her bulletproof tips & secrets.

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